Hearing from America on Intellectual Property

I wanted to check in and let you know where we stand on putting together the intellectual property (IP) enforcement strategy and how much we have learned from the public. 

Over the last few months, I have been working with policymakers across federal agencies to address the problems faced by American businesses with regards to intellectual property infringement.  There are a number of critical programs in place to support business and we are working to make these programs more effective and develop new programs where gaps exist.

Just as important as our work with agencies, however, I have had the chance to meet with and hear from people who actually live with these issues on a day-to-day basis, whether it is a small business owner facing IP theft for the first time, a large company that deals with infringement on a regular basis, or a labor organization concerned about losing jobs because of counterfeiting and other forms of infringement.  Even as somebody who has worked extensively on these issues, it’s been an amazing reminder of how intellectual property enforcement affects every corner of our country.

Over the last few months, I have met with big technology companies that make sophisticated hardware and network systems as well as early stage companies that are just in the process of getting off the ground, all of which are hurt by IP infringement. 

I met with a company that manufactures cement in innovative ways that will protect our environment, and with the heads of venture capital funds that are investing in green technologies, all of which face the risk of losing their new green technology (and the jobs that come with it) as a result of IP theft.

I sat down with book publishers, movie studios, music companies, and videogame companies, all of whom are faced with widespread problems resulting from internet piracy.  I heard concerns from many other sectors as well: our airplane industry, small manufacturers, automobile industry, steelworkers, textile manufacturers, and biotech, software, and telecommunication companies.

I also sat down with those who want strong defenses and exceptions to intellectual property liability, including academics across the country, or consumer rights organizations.  I met with Internet companies that organize information and help our citizens find out what they want to know about the world today and connect people around the globe, and Internet auction sites that allow consumers to buy what they want at the price they want, all of which are affected by our enforcement efforts.

Through this process, I have learned how many different types of businesses are affected and harmed by infringement of intellectual property.  I have been impressed by the level of knowledge and concern at the very top of some of our biggest and most innovative companies, responsible for millions of American jobs.  I had the opportunity to sit down with CEOs from Intel, eBay, Calera, Google, Warner Bros, and Pandora, among many others, representing nearly every innovation-intensive sector of our economy. 

Perhaps most importantly, through these meetings and through the comments we received from the general public, we have received some excellent recommendations about how the United States government can improve our efforts to enforce our intellectual property, with some of the best ideas coming from the smallest companies.

Most of these discussions took place in Washington, D.C., but I also had the chance to travel to Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and New York to visit companies at their headquarters and hear their concerns directly.  As I continue to both work on the IP enforcement strategy itself and then the even harder work of implementing it, these discussions will continue, both in DC and in communities and regions across the country, so I can continue to hear from those directly affected by what we do.

Victoria Espinel is the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

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